Black and white revelations

Carol Hall Memories Photograph
Carol Hall and her friend Beverly with matching dolls in 1941

There I stand, stiff-legged and serious, clutching my high school diploma.

Here, I’m a little younger, waving a small American flag, ready to march in the Memorial Day parade.

And here, our family is gathered around my sailor brother, home on leave from the Pacific during WWII.

Carol Hall Memories photograph
Carol’s family in 1943 with her sailor brother on leave from World War II

These and other black-and-white snapshots from the 1940s and early ’50s fill one of many scrapbooks stored in the attic of my house.

Going through them, I’m reminded that picture-taking then was a big deal — but it often seemed like an ordeal.

Flash attachments weren’t readily accessible in our little town — or at least my family didn’t have one — so we’d troop outside and pose, holding still and squinting into the sun until the shutter finally snapped.

The results often depict closed eyes and fixed smiles — Cheese! — that came off as grimacing.

Carol Hall Memories photograph
Carol’s Sunday school class in 1948

A few indoor shots are in my albums. How they were lit is a mystery. But invariably, like one of a family Christmas gathering, they portray several adults squeezed together on the living room sofa, holding kids on their laps — everyone mouthing “Cheese!” in unison.

And that was that! Film was expensive. Only one shot per event was taken. And so there you were, preserved for the ages, like it or not.

Although inexpert, we were all eager to view these photos — wondering “how they’d turn out.”  Anticipation mounted while the film was at the drugstore, being processed. I could hardly wait to see the ones I’d taken myself of my girlfriends with my Kodak Baby Brownie camera.

After we’d had a quick peek, my mother would carefully arrange the photos in an album. The popular style then consisted of a cardboard cover and construction-paper pages bound together with a twisted cord. Four black photo corners held the jagged white edges of each photo in place.

Carol Hall Memories photograph

And so, there they are, still today, grouped together in my attic — leaving me with a dilemma: I’ve reached an age where I feel I should do something with these albums. But what?

My younger family members don’t want them. I can’t bring myself to toss the whole collection into the trash as some of my peers have done. It would be like saying, “Hey! I’m not dead yet. But there goes my life!”

And there goes a valuable snippet of history. These photos offer an authentic glimpse of a typical, small-town Midwest family during — and just after — WWII.

Carol Hall Memories photograph
Carol’s Sunday school class in 1948

These were the clothes we wore then, and how women styled their hair. The occasions pictured are ones we revered. Even the stuff caught in the background, our screened porch, the old Hudson family sedan in the driveway, speak volumes for those times — as does the Christmas tree in the family-gathering shot.

It’s a bit scrawny. It’s decorated with those large, unreliable lights and popular clear glass ornaments with colored stripes — and over-decorated with handfuls of shiny tinsel.

I don’t know where this photo will end up.

But with it in mind, dear reader, Merry Christmas — and “Cheese!”


Carol Hall lives in Woodbury. She’s a longtime freelance writer, a University of Minnesota graduate and a former Northwest Airlines stewardess. Send comments and questions to chall@mngoodage.com.